Key Takeaways from the Freshbooks Workshop

Mike McDerment was in town last week to give his first How to Build a Web App Workshop in Vancouver in partnership with us.  He kicked things off around 9:30am with a poll to find out how many attendees were currently building a web app business or thinking about it.  Upon a show of hands, I would say approximately 40% of the audience was in the process of building a web app.

Mike’s workshop was about setting up your business to provide you with the best chance of success and was more marketing/business focused than technical.  He shared stories and lessons learned from the early days of starting Freshbooks (originally named 2ndSite) in his parent’s basement until today (1.25M customers and growing!).  Here are a just a few key takeaways from his workshop:

  • Build the least number of features you can. Until you get it out there and get people using it, you know nothing!
  • Set a deadline for launch and stick to it.  There will always be a feature to add but you are lying to yourself if you say “we can’t launch without this.”
  • Invest your time and energy into customer development.
  • You can’t go it alone. Find founding team member(s), who are passionate and will be motivated by tiny successes.
  • Own or be a leader in a category.

Here are a few Tweets from workshop attendees:

We didn’t announce a standard #hashtag at the beginning of the workshop so it was hard to find all of your comments online but it is not too late. If you attended, we would love to hear your thoughts about the workshop overall and what you learned or perhaps, wish Mike covered.  So, feel free to comment on this post.

If you have specific questions about Freshbooks or the content of the workshop, you can give them a holler
in Toronto.

Thanks again, Mike for joining us in Vancouver.  Let’s not wait another 10 years to do this again.

How to Build A Web App Business with Freshbooks CEO, Mike McDerment

How I met Mike McDerment
In July 2008, my company Strutta was selected out of over 100 applicants to be one of 11 companies to demo at Twiistup 4. Our team, dressed in white to celebrate the launch of our new white label contest platform, descended on the Viceroy in Santa Monica, CA to make some noise.

On top of attracting some new customers and dominating the Skee Ball table in the Twiistup Arcade late night (oh yes, I did!), I met some really great people including Saul Colt, the Smartest Man in the World, who introduced me to Mike McDerment, the CEO and Founder of Freshbooks.

I really enjoyed meeting Saul, Sunir and Mike and learning more about the itch that caused Mike to start Freshbooks.  Upon returning to Vancouver, I continued to hear rave reviews about his company and read stories of how the Freshbooks team went out of their way to deliver exceptional customer service time and time again. It was abundantly clear that Mike and his team had successfully started and built a customer driven product and organization. Not an easy feat!

Vancouver Enterprise Forum, November 24
So, when I sat down with the VEF Ops committee last May to help put together a wish list of engaging speakers for the year ahead, Mike’s name immediately came to mind. Lucky for us, Mike happily accepted our invitation to come West to share his start-up story and answer your questions at the VEF on Tuesday, November 24.

How to Build a Web App Business, November 25
While Mike is in town, he will also be delivering a very informative workshop on How to Build a Web App Business at Earl’s V Lounge in Yaletown on November 25 at 9am.  Mike will cover everything from building your app and your team to marketing, product management, metrics and financing.

For an entrepreneur, who recently graced the cover of Entrepreneur magazine as the Founder of 1 of 100 Brilliant Companies that has attracted more than 1M users, I trust Mike knows a thing or two about building a successful web app business.  Sign up now while there are still some spots left!  Tickets are $100, includes lunch and refreshments.